On June 11, the American Jewish publication Tablet published a lengthy interview with Kevin MacDonald, a White nationalist and antisemite whose voluminous writings on Jews have shaped the movement responsible for the deadliest wave of antisemitic violence the Jewish community has ever faced in the U.S.
It’s shocking that, in the midst of a national uprising for Black lives, Tablet offered a platform for a White nationalist to elucidate his abhorrent views on racial IQ differences, the benefits of segregated schooling, and more. While it’s long been known that Tablet often masks its right-ward political bent with liberal arts & culture coverage, this is a shande on an entirely new level.
An Antisemitic Thought Leader
It’s not an exaggeration to say that MacDonald is the intellectual architect of White nationalist antisemitism. A retired professor of psychology from California State University- Long Beach, he is the White nationalist movement’s go-to academic for all matters relating to the ‘Jewish question’. Virtually every White nationalist I monitor on the internet, when casting about for sources in support of their anti-Jewish conspiracism, will invariably tell their audience to read Culture of Critique, MacDonald’s most well-known book.
Citing MacDonald, White nationalists assert Jews act as hidden masterminds of non-White immigration, black freedom movements, LGBTQ rights, and other progressive causes in order to cause ‘White genocide’- the destruction of the White race. Jews are driven to destroy the White race, MacDonald reasons, as part of a “group evolutionary strategy” whereby a tight-knit Jewish ‘ingroup’ engages in stealth competition with the dominant ethnic group in the larger society, monopolizing resources, rising to the elite and disarming all defenses against their invasion. Applying this theory to modern America, MacDonald sees progressive Jewish activists as the prime movers and shadowy architects behind expansive immigration laws, the civil rights movement, the New Left, feminist and LGBTQ rights movements, ‘political correctness’ on college campuses, and other progressive causes, as well as right-wing phenomena like neoconservatism.
MacDonald’s influence resounded in the chants of “Jews will not replace us” heard at the Charlottesville, VA Unite the Right rally in 2017. His ideology was mirrored by synagogue shooters like Robert Bowers, who insisted that Jews “bring in invaders that kill our [white] people” before committing the deadliest massacre of Jews in American history in Pittsburgh in 2018. These ideas are moving fast across the mainstream Right in our turbulent political climate, with Trump and other right-wing elected officials, and media outlets like Fox News, using dogwhistle antisemitism to insist that liberal Jewish philanthropist George Soros or the ‘globalist elite’ lurks as the hidden hand behind non-White immigration, the spread of COVID-19, and more.
Anti-Blackness and Antisemitism
For White nationalists like MacDonald, anti-Blackness and antisemitism are deeply intertwined, animating a broader worldview of bigotry and exclusion. White nationalists believe that the systemic disadvantages faced by black communities in the U.S. around employment, housing, education and a range of other structures of life testify, not to the compounded influence of centuries of institutionalized White supremacy, but to the persistence of biologically based racial differences. “Average black IQ is 85,” MacDonald states matter-of-factly in the introduction to his 2006 essay ‘Jews, Blacks and Race’, “one standard deviation below the mean for American whites and at least two standard deviations below the mean Jewish-American IQ.”
These discredited, pseudo-scientific race theories, popularized by books like Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve and certified by a handful of credentialed movement ideologues like MacDonald, are used by White nationalists to assert that most Black Americans lack impulse control and the capacity for advanced thought because of an inherited genetic deficiency. While this logic has undergirded centuries of pervasive White supremacy in the U.S., finding expression in systems, like repressive policing and mass incarceration, aimed at the maintenance of racial hierarchy and control, contemporary white nationalists take it a disturbing step further. Convinced that even the most acutely unequal form of cohabitation in a multicultural society could lead to so-called White genocide, they advocate for total social, political, and territorial separation between races through the creation of an all-white ethnostate on all or part of American soil.
White nationalists use antisemitism to round out their racist worldview, purporting to explain how Black Americans, despite their supposed biological inferiority, have led transformative social movements that have struck powerfully at the scaffolding of White supremacy in the modern U.S. “Jewish activism,” MacDonald writes in Jews, Blacks and Race, “was a critical force in leading, organizing, and funding the revolution in ethnic relations that has occurred in the U.S. since WWII.” The civil rights movement, he writes, would not have been “so effective and so quickly successful in the absence of Jewish involvement,” since before the 1960s, “blacks had not shown themselves to be able to develop effective organizations without Jewish input.” Thus, MacDonald wrote in 1998, Jews have been “instrumental in organizing African Americans as a political force that served Jewish interests in diluting the political and cultural hegemony of non-Jewish European Americans.” In this demeaning and false worldview, black Americans are reduced to little more than pawns in a Jewish power struggle, fronts in a Jewish culture war against ‘real’ white Americans.
Here and elsewhere, MacDonald’s writings lend an academic gloss to ideas with deep roots in U.S. White supremacist movements. “JEWS BEHIND RACE MIXING”, proclaimed a 1950s-era pamphlet from the anti-integrationist Christian Anti-Jewish Party, insisting that “it is the Jews who are leading the fight to destroy segregation in Atlanta schools” and warning that “a race once mongrelized is mongrelized forever.” “The negro is not the enemy,” asserted J.B. Stoner, leader of the National States Rights Party (NSRP), which worked alongside groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the Minutemen to oppose civil rights advances across the Jim Crow South. “The Jew is THE enemy of our White Race and the Jew is using the negro in an effort to destroy the White Race that he so passionately hates.” In 1958, five men linked to the NSRP were indicted for the bombing of an Atlanta synagogue, part of a string of bombings that targeted synagogues and black churches across the Jim Crow South.
In following decades, movement leaders developed these themes further, responding to the continuing impact of the black freedom movement on American society. In 1974, for example, National Vanguard leader William Pierce published a polemic against affirmative action, ‘Blacks, Jews and Reverse Discrimination’, insisting that Jews were “the moving force” behind federal equal opportunity initiatives, proof that once again, Black Americans were made to suffer “the ignominy of being used as pawns in the Jewish bid for world domination”.
From the early days of the Black Lives Matter movement, White nationalists have argued that protests against racist policing were part of a Jewish conspiracy to create an “anti-White religion”, as MacDonald put it shortly after the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in 2012. White nationalist shooter Dylann Roof, who murdered 9 Black worshippers at a Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015, inveighed against “the Jewish agitation of the black race” in his vitriolic anti-black manifesto. “The event that truly awakened me” to the white nationalist worldview, Roof explained, “was the Trayvon Martin case.”
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd by a White police officer and three of his colleagues in Minneapolis, White nationalists are again adding a potent mix of antisemitism to their pervasive anti-blackness, as they confront, with helplessness and rage, the transformative protests sweeping the U.S. “What we are witnessing,” tweeted White nationalist podcaster Mike Peinovich on June 19 amidst the toppling of Confederate monuments across the country, “is a violent, state-backed Jewish cultural revolution…they will not stop until the image of literally every white man is removed from public view.”
As occurred in earlier iterations of Black Lives Matter protests, a dog-whistle variant on this theme has made its way across the U.S. Right, with Fox News guests, Trump surrogates and GOP Congressional candidates insisting that liberal Jewish philanthropist George Soros funds and controls protests in order to undermine President Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda. The observation made of the Jim Crow South by historian Clive Webb rings true today: then and now antisemitism is used to portray Jews “as fifth columnists, working to subvert the southern [and today, the national] racial order from within.”
For contemporary White nationalists, the only possible solution remains radical separation. “The real root of this crisis,” professed White nationalist podcaster Nick Fuentes on June 6, “is that our differences with the other half of the population have become unavoidable and irreconcilable.” Two weeks later, he expanded on his conviction that “there is no ‘we’, there is no country…the only possible outcomes are some sort of mediated separation or total subjugation by the victor, whichever team prevails.”
For his part, MacDonald has amplified these themes, using the moment to smear Black protestors on social media as “a low-IQ crime-prone underclass beyond the reach of any remediation”, decry the “anti-White revolution” underway, and urge White people to “wake up before their entire history is erased–a prelude to them being erased.” Across the pages of the Occidental Observer, MacDonald’s publication, one author scrambles to identify Jewish donors to movement support networks, and insists that, since the doctor who performed George Floyd’s autopsy is Jewish, the ‘murder’ diagnosis is further evidence of a sinister Jewish conspiracy. Another chillingly reminds readers that “we are living through the greatest crisis to have ever faced our White race, our White civilization…we must never forget the fact that the Enemy is Jewish; all else is a distraction…we deserve to die if we do not fight back now.”
Don’t Give White Nationalists a Platform
One wonders what, exactly, compelled the literary editor of Tablet to fly out to Southern Oregon last year to interview, over a few beers, a notorious antisemite and virulent racist. Since the rise of the Alt Right in 2017, experts have warned journalists and news outlets precisely against conducting interviews that grant their subjects legitimacy and respectability. Samuels reasoned that, by gently pushing back against MacDonald’s assertions and attempting to poke a few ‘gotcha’ holes in MacDonald’s arguments, he could make MacDonald appear ignorant, parochial and absurd.
But the interviewer seems intent to reach across the aisle and find points of agreement with his subject. Samuels dejectedly professes that women can be ‘bonkers’, the Left is insane, there is a war against whites, and speculates aloud that “American Jews are now being bitten in the ass by their own multicultural utopianism”, inviting MacDonald to share in his contempt for modern liberal society. MacDonald, meanwhile, strategically downplays the virulent, extremist core of his ideas, whose full exposition I monitor daily on social media and his web site.
In his introduction to the piece, Samuels asserts that dissident voices like MacDonald’s face “censorship” at the hands of “techno-monopolies” and “elite bureaucracies” who suppress their freedom of speech by banning their voices. The real way to combat hateful ideas, Samuels insists, is to “hear what they sound like”.
This echoes the argument made by White nationalists themselves, from the online forums of 4chan to Fox News and the White House. Like Samuels, the far-right claims that, when social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram decide to ban their accounts, this constitutes a form of oppression by all-powerful elites. The deplatforming of hate speech, they insist, reflects the sordid excesses of ‘cancel culture’, symptoms of a 21st-century liberal dystopia where, as Samuels bemoans, “more and more people are identified as carriers of unacceptable thought, and the wider social tolerance for dissenting opinions collapses, along with the entire rights-based structure that has made the progressive expansion of freedoms in America possible.”
Discourse which demonizes, and incites violence against, marginalized groups should not be tolerated in the public sphere. Research and advocacy groups agree that banning hate speech from social media platforms is a crucial way to slow its spread, and to protect vulnerable minorities in our turbulent era. White nationalist groups freely admit that such deplatforming has greatly hampered their ability to fundraise, recruit, spread their ideology and grow their movement.
Tablet’s Right-Wing Bias
While Tablet tends to deny it has a political agenda, observers have noted its clear right-wing bias since at least 2014, when numerous columnists took a hard-right stance during Israel’s war on Gaza. The magazine is funded through a stream of intermediaries by the Tikvah Fund, a foundation with a distinct conservative agenda that has launched an array of Jewish arts and cultural initiatives in the United States and Israel, attempting to shift the landscape of Jewish thought rightwards. “Unless we populate the humanities with an alternative to the ascendant ideology” of liberalism, Tikvah Fund board member Roger Hertog explained in a 2010 speech, “conservative ideas…will over time lose out.” Small magazines, Hertog noted, are a crucial investment “if the aim is to develop and disseminate ideas.”
In the era of Trump, Tablet functions as a refuge for a class of disgruntled center-right pundits, eager to bash “social justice warriors”, “cancel culture” and the “woke” Left while taking care to safeguard their credentials as ‘classical’ liberals. It has positioned itself, as Jewish Studies professor Zachary Breiterman put it, “at the forefront” against “‘the stupidities of the woke left’…and this position in the fight against the left identity politics…puts Tablet in the corner of soft white nationalism.” As journalist Esther Solomon notes in Haaretz, Tablet likely decided to publish this interview, provocatively titled ‘American Racist’, during a national uprising for Black lives, as a clumsy and ill-advised ‘clap back’ against cancel culture, a wrongheaded intervention into current debates on the role of news media in platforming far-right opinions in a moment of racial unrest.
Nor is this the first time Tablet has made overtures to the far-right. In 2017, for example, Tablet writer Liel Leibovitz wrote columns defending then-Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka after Gorka’s ties to Nazi-linked Hungarian group Vitezi Rend became known, and appeared two years later on Gorka’s ‘America First’ show to rail against ‘fake news’. In 2018, an article surfaced attempting to defend the ‘Cultural Marxism’ conspiracy theory, long favored by white nationalists, from accusations of antisemitism. Its author, Alexander Zubatov, had just written for the White nationalist Republic Standard, asserting there that “Black Lives Matter are wrong” since “stereotypes exist because we experience them to be true”.
Tablet appears to be fulfilling Tikvah Fund’s goal, as Braiterman explained it in 2011, of “seeking to position the world of Jewish ideas to the right of American and Jewish public opinion.” Such a position not only renders Tablet far out of sync with most American Jews, who remain solidly liberal; in our political moment, it also helps propel the steady creep of far-right ideology across the broader media ecosystem, making ideas once deemed extreme- like “the Left is engaged in a war against whites”- steadily appear to many as reasonable and common-sense. By publishing Kevin MacDonald in the middle of an uprising for Black lives, Tablet proves itself an unwitting front for this strategy.